Lydian mode

The different diatonic modes and their chromatic alterations give you a lot of opportunities to add variety to your music and even borrow the chords from the parallel modes.

This article covers the Lydian mode, including its scale formula, intervals, notes, main characteristics, comparison with other modes & scales, possible alterations, patterns to assist you in guitar playing, chords, its use in popular music, etc.

Read the complete article to know all about the Lydian mode and more!

What is a Mode in Music?

Lydian is one of the seven-note diatonic modes of the major scale. As you undoubtedly know from the music theory, the number of possible modes that can be derived from any scale is equal to the number of notes in the parent scale. The modes are built by starting at a different note as a tonic and rewriting all the notes of the parent scale in the same sequence.

The seven modes of the major scale are:

We have covered all the basics of all the modes for you in a separate article on diatonic modes.

What is the Lydian Mode

As per the music theory, the Lydian mode is the fourth mode of a major scale. This means that if you make the fourth-degree note of any major scale as the tonic and reproduce the notes of the selected parent scale in the same sequence, you obtain the Lydian Mode or scale.

For example, consider the C Major Scale with notes [C D E F G A B]. As you know, its fourth scale degree note is F. Start your 4th mode with F as the tonic note and rewrite the 7 notes of C major in the same sequence, [F G A B C D E]. You have just derived the F Lydian scale.

If you consider the D major scale as the parent, you get G Lydian with notes [G A B C# D E F#] as the 4th mode.

Similarly, the C Lydian is the 4th mode of the G major scale with the notes [C D E F# G A B].

Lydian Mode Formula

The scale formula for the Lydian mode is

{W W W H W W H} or {T T T S T T S} or {2, 2, 2, 1, 2, 2, 1}

Here W denotes the Whole steps (2 half steps), and H represents a half step. Similarly, T and S represent a Whole tone and a semitone, respectively.

Use the Relevant Major

Instead of finding the parent scale and rearranging its notes, you can derive the notes of any Lydian scale by applying the formula given below to the notes of the parallel major scale.

{1 2 3 #4 5 6 7}

Suppose you want to find the notes of F Lydian by this method. You need first to write down the notes of the F Major {F G A Bb C D E}. Then apply the above formula to the notes of this scale. As you can observe, you just require to raise the fourth note by a half step. So you get the notes of F Lydian as {F G A B C D E}, the same as we derived in the earlier section.

Similarly, you can derive the C Lydian with the above formula as {C D E F# G A B}. You just have to raise the fourth note.

Lydian Mode Intervals

It is possible to derive the intervals of the Lydian mode from the notes or the scale formula discussed above. The analysis for the C major key is known below.

F To G – 2 semitones = Major 2nd (Major Second or M2 from root)

G to A – 2 semitones = Major 2nd (Major Third or M3 from root)

A to B – 2 semitones = Major 2nd (Augmented Fourth or A4 from root)

B to C – 1 semitone = minor 2nd (perfect Fifth or P5 from root).

C to D – 2 semitones = Major 2nd (Major Sixth, M6 from root)

D to E – 2 semitones = Major 2nd (Major Seventh, M7 from root)

E to F – 1 semitone = minor 2nd (Octave from root)

The intervals from the tonic can be summarized as R, M2, M3, A4, P5, M6, M7. and R(O). A more detailed structural representation of the scale formula and intervals is given below.

R – T – M2 – T – M3 – T – A4 – S – P5 – T – M6 – T – M7 – T – R

Lydian Mode Notes & Degrees

You had seen the notes of the F Lydian mode. The scale degree numbers and their names, including the functions, remain the same as those of the major and natural minor scales.

F Lydian Mode On the Treble and Bass Clef

The notation diagrams of the F Lydian mode in ascending and descending are placed below, showing its notes on the treble and bass clef.

F Lydian on Treble Clef in Ascending and Descending

F Lydian Mode on the Treble Clef

F Lydian on Bass Clef in Ascending and Descending

F Lydian Mode on the Bass Clef

Comparing Lydian to the Major Scale

As stated earlier, the Lydian is the 4th mode of the major scales. The Lydian modes are the major modes because of the major 3rd interval. It has a difference of just one note with the parallel Ionian mode at the 4th scale degree, which is raised compared to the Ionian.

Lydian, along with the Ionian and the Mixolydian mode, forms the three major modal scales.

Lydian Mode Characteristics

As you have seen in the last section, the only difference with the major scale lies in the degree 4 note, which provides the characteristic Lydian sound. To some, the Lydian mode sounds celestial or heavenly, with a sense of hopefulness and rise. Others describe it as having its own distinct sound that appears floating, sedative, intriguing, curious, futuristic, and Sci-fi.

The Lydian mode starts with a tritone between the tonal center and the 4th note.

List of Lydian Scales

The list of the Lydian scales, along with their notes, is given in the table below. The scale formula given above will help you in deriving the notes of the other Lydian scales.

Relative keys – Lydian and Major

The relative scale pairs carry the same notes and key signatures. As the mode of any parent scale, by definition, have the same notes in the same sequence, the modal scales will form relative pairs among them and with their parent scale or the Ionian mode.

To find out the relative pair of the Lydian mode with the major scale, we need to lower the tonic note by a Perfect 4th or 5 semitones. The relative pairs are shown below.

  • C Lydian – G Major
  • C# Lydian – G# Major
  • D Lydian – A Major
  • D# Lydian – A# Major
  • E Lydian – B Major
  • F Lydian – C Major
  • F# Lydian – C# Major
  • G Lydian – D Major
  • G# Lydian – D# Major
  • A Lydian – E Major
  • A# Lydian – E# Major
  • B Lydian – F# Major

Altered Lydian scales

The following section discusses the common alterations on the Lydian scales.

Lydian Augmented.

The Lydian augmented scale has an additional raised 5th note in addition to the sharpened fourth of the normal Lydian mode. Hence the formula for the augmented Lydian mode is {1 2 3 #4 #5 6 7}. The notes of the C Lydian Augmented scale are

[C D E F# G# A B]

The presence of the augmented interval at the 5th makes the scale have an augmented chord as the tonic. The augmented triads are dissonant, and cadence is difficult in such scales as we had seen in the Locrian scale.

The first five notes have whole-tone intervals till the sixth. This makes it appear very close to a whole tone scale. The sound of any scale depends on the location of the semitones. In the end, there are two semitones close to each other which is different from the principles of the diatonic scales, where every semitone is separated by two whole tones.

Consider one example of ‘A’ Major Scale {A B C# D E F# G#}. The A Lydian Augmented scale is {A B C# D# E# F# G#}. It is the third mode of the F# Melodic minor Scale {F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#, E#}

Lydian Minor

You will normally expect any minor scale to carry a minor 3rd interval. This alteration is slightly different. Only the 6th and 7th notes are lowered to create some darkness characteristic of any minor scale. This results in two simultaneous semitones between #4 to 5 to b6 in this scale to produce a very distinct sound.

Lydian b7 or Lydian Dominant

This alteration has a lowered 7th note. This forms the dominant 7th chord on scale degree 1. However, the presence of #4 or #11 lowers its attraction to the I chord. It is the 4th mode of the melodic minor scale.

Lydian #2.

Not as commonly used as other modes, the alteration results in an Augmented 2nd interval at the very beginning. We see this interval only between the 6th and 7th notes of the harmonic minor scale, among all the common 7-note scales.

F Lydian Mode Guitar Patterns on the Fretboard

Let us now look at the patterns of the F Lydian scale on the guitar fretboard, their fingerings, and the guitar tabs.

The complete F Lydian scale on the entire guitar fretboard (up to the 15th fret) is shown in the diagram below. You can see the entire F Lydian Scale in a single line from the 3rd fret of the 4th string to the 15th fret.

F Lydian Scale Up to 15 Fret

Lydian Mode One Octave Shapes

The fretboard diagrams showing one octave of the F Lydian scale with the tonic note on the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th strings are placed below.

F Lydian Scale - Single Octaves

Lydian Mode – CAGED Patterns

The below diagrams show the five different scale patterns based on the open chord CAGED system. Note the lowest root note positions of each pattern carefully, as you need to start playing any pattern from this position.

F Lydian Scale Patterns

1st Pattern

  1. Chord shape based on: E open chord shape.
  2. Pattern lies between the frets: 7th fret to 10th fret.
  3. The number of root notes: Two.
  4. Lowest root note position: 8th fret on the 5th string.
F Lydian Mode - E Shape

2nd Pattern

  1. Chord shape based on: D open chord shape.
  2. Pattern lies between the frets: 9th fret to 13th fret.
  3. The number of root notes: Three.
  4. Lowest root note position: 13th fret on the 6th string.
F Lydian Mode - D Shape 01

3rd Pattern

  1. Chord shape based on: C open chord shape.
  2. Pattern lies between the frets: 12th fret to 15th fret.
  3. The number of root notes: Three.
  4. Lowest root note position: 13th fret on the 6th string.
F Lydian Mode - C Shape 01

4th Pattern

  1. Chord shape based on: A open chord shape.
  2. Pattern lies between the frets: 2nd fret to 6th fret.
  3. The number of root notes: Two.
  4. Lowest root note position: 3rd fret on the 4th string.
F Lydian Mode - A Shape 01

5th Pattern

  1. Chord shape based on: G open chord shape.
  2. Pattern lies between the frets: 4th fret to 8th fret.
  3. The number of root notes: Two.
  4. Lowest root note position: 8th fret on the 5th string.
F Lydian Mode - G Shape

Practicing The Scale Patterns

See in detail how to play and practice any scale in our articles on the D Major scale and C major scale.

In summary, For the patterns that span four frets, you can use one finger to play notes on each fret. For example, in the 1st pattern, use

  • index finger for the 7th fret,
  • the middle finger for the 8th fret,
  • the ring finger for the 9th fret, and
  • the pinky finger for the 10th fret.

This has been explained for all the patterns in the table below.

ShapeIndex FingerMiddle FingerRing FingerLittle Finger
EFret 7Fret 8Fret 9Fret 10
DString [3 4] - Fret 9th, String [1 2 5 6] - Fret 10String [3 4] - Fret 10th, String [1 2 5 6] - Fret 11String [3 4] - Fret 11th, String [1 2 5 6] - Fret 12String [3 4] - Fret 12th, String [1 2 5 6] - Fret 13
CFret 12Fret 13Fret 14Fret 15
AString [3 4 5] - 2nd, [1 2 6] - Fret 3rdString [3 4 5] - Fret 3rd, String [1 2 6] - Fret 4thString [3 4 5] - Fret 4th, String [1 2 6] - Fret 5thString [3 4 5] - Fret 5th, String [1 2 6] - Fret 6th
GString 3 - Fret 4, String [1 2 4 5 6] - Fret 5 String 3 - Fret 5, String [1 2 4 5 6] - Fret 6 String 3 - Fret 6, String [1 2 4 5 6] - Fret 7 String 3 - Fret 7, String [1 2 4 5 6] - Fret 8

Analysis And Harmonization Of The Lydian Mode

The triads of the Lydian mode are formed by stacking the intervals of thirds (major or minor) over the root note.

Triads of the F Lydian Scale

The chords formed by the harmonization of the F Lydian scale, their roman numeral designation with respect to the Ionian mode, and the chord qualities are given in the table below.

Scale Degrees1234567
Chord DesignationIIIiii#ivdimVvivii
Chord NamesFGAmBdimCDmEm
Chord QualityMajorMajorminordiminishedMajorminorminor

The following triad chords have resulted from the F Lydian scale.

  1. Three major chords – I, II, and V – The F major, G Major, and C Major chords.
  2. Three minor chords – iii, vi, and vii – The A minor, D minor, and the E minor chord.
  3. One diminished chord – #ivdim – The B diminished triad, Bdim.

The seven triads, their note names, and their intervals are shown in the table below.

Scale DegreesIntervalsChord NotesChord Name
1R – F – m3 – A – M3 – CF – A – CF
2R – G – m3 – B – M3 – DG – B – DG
3R – A – M3 – C – m3 – EA – C – EAm
4R – B – m3 – D – M3 – FB – D – FBdim
5R – C – m3 – E – m3 – GC – E – GC
6R – D – M3 – F – m3 – AD – F – ADm
7R – E – m3 – G – M3 – BE – G – BEm

7th Chords of the F Lydian Scale

The seventh chords formed naturally in the F Lydian scale are

Fmaj7 – Major 7th chord – [F A C E],

G7 – Dominant 7 chord – [G B D F],

Am7 – Minor 7th chord – [A C E G],

Bm7b5 – Half Diminished Chord – [B D F A],

CMaj7 – Major 7th chord – [C E G B].

Dm7 – Minor 7th chord – [D F A C],

Em7 – Minor 7th Chord – [E G B D],

You can see that the triads and the 7th chords of the Lydian mode are the same as the C Ionian mode, with different scale degrees.

Which chord progressions can you use the Lydian scale with?

As stated above, the tritone for the scale lies between degrees 1 and #4, and #4 is the characteristic note of the mode. The chords built on #4 are II, #ivdim, and vii. You must use these chords in your progressions to bring out the unique sound and flavor of the Lydian mode. These progressions could be

  • I – II – I – II – I.
  • I – II – iii – II – I. (Escalation Effect)

You can modify the iii chord by adding a #4 note, making it iiiadd9, and using I – II – vii – iii(add9) progression.

Normally the V chord is avoided as it brings out the major scale tonality. V – I in the Lydian is equivalent to I – IV in the Ionian. The tritone in Ionian has scale degrees 7 and 4 (dissonant notes), where both resolve to 1(8) and 3, the tonic chord. In Lydian, the tritone between 1 and #4 resolves to 1 and 5. This resolution is not powerful and conclusive, as one common tone stays.

Lydian Compositions and Songs

Some of the compositions and the song in the Lydian mode are listed below:

  1. “Man on the Moon” by R.E.M. (C Lydian).
  2. “Yoda’s Theme” from Empire Strikes Back, John Williams. (C Lydian).
  3. “Waltz # 1” by Elliot Smith. (Db Lydian).
  4. “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac. (F Lydian).
  5. “Possibly May Be” by Bjork. (B Lydian).
  6. “Oceans” by Pearl Jam. (C Lydian & D Lydian).
  7. “Space Oddity” by David Bowie. (F Lydian).


We hope our article on the Lydian mode has given you enough insights to try it out in your music. Do write in the comment section below if you need any further clarifications or if you want to share your experience with the Lydian mode.

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